I’m not going to preface this with anything. Today’s headline says it all – by far, the best thing I have ever learned, and it’s something that I have brought to every job I have had since my first forays into the world of work, is this…
Be the person you needed when you were young.
This can be as a manager, a gallerist, an art educator, a mid-career artist or writer who has a bit of expertise to share. In any way you can, bring love and compassion to how you deal with those who are following in your footsteps. I learned this through being treated like shite by various managers as a teenager working in retail. I am very proud to say that when I took on my first management role at 22, I was compassionate and fair and my staff had my back. If you can help a young artist or writer, do it. And do it with grace and compassion. I help anyone who asks for it. And yes, I keep helping even when others are ungrateful or ‘forget’ to acknowledge my help. It’s all part of the process.
My proudest moment as a manager was an event I didn’t even attend. After the fact, my more outgoing colleagues who liked attending such things told me that one of my young staff made a speech at an industry function detailing how much I had helped her and changed her life. I was blown away because as far as I was concerned I was just doing my job.
To be honest, after 20 years in retail, the shift over to the arts industry came as a bit of a shock and quite a steep learning curve. Retail is a fairly straight-forward place to work, but design or the arts can be a very different animal. Now that I have taken a step back and no longer work for a gallery, it has taken long talks with other ‘survivors’, therapy and a shit-ton of journalling to unpack it all.
Aside from the above, hands-down, the next biggest lesson I’ve learned through all that hindsight was this;
Don’t take it all so seriously!
I used a larger text, a new line, bold and italics on that because it’s really important! If only I had learned that years ago, I might have made more of an impact on my visual art-making goals, instead of making bitty-bits for people to hang to match the cushions…
How am I taking my own advice in my writing? While I am taking the work seriously by writing daily; this blog, on Medium, short stories, editing my memoir and novels… BUT, I am doing it with a light heart, a sense of joy and a fearlessness that I didn’t know I possessed! Sure, I want people to read (buy$$!) my work, of course, but I am doing my best work and shipping it with no fear of rejection, criticism or failure. Because failure as an artist only exists in NOT MAKING ART. Anything you make is art and if you want to show people, go for it! If they don’t like it, tell them to go and make their own f*cking art (to quote Liz Gilbert again!)
Have a beautiful arty day, peeps.